tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 29, 2013 12:30am-1:00am EST
tavis: good evening. smiley. tonight a conversation with the rolling stone contributing editor and best-selling author michael hastings. military has been front and center thanks to the announcement women will be allowed in combat for the first time in u.s. history. michael hastings is also out with a project about last year's presidential race. it is called "panic 2012." we are glad you joined us. a conversation with michael hastings is coming up now. good >> there is a saying dr. king had that it is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work togher, we can stamp hunger out.
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> michael hastings is a contributing editor at rolling stone whose text became one of the most talked about in 2012. he has also just released a new ebook about last year's presidential race called "panic 2012." good to have you back here on this program. there is so much news to talk to you about with immigration, and
the president is set to give a speech on his sense of what needs to be done. let me start with this book. i love that title. and what was so alarmed? then we will talk about the terrifying. >> -- what was sublime? then we will talk about terrifying. >> you have crowds to go into ecstasy when they see president obama speak, passing out and the excitement of it. despite the absurdity of the entire campaign experience, there is something uplifting and strange about watching. that is the sublime part. the terrifying part is everything else. >> you found you were done with the campaign trail, that you would never go again. it is the same vow i have made.
it is a waste of time, so 2012 i stayed in the studio and cover the convention every night but did so from los angeles. i did not waste money to cover something that is not going to make the news. that is my vow. i am trying to stick to mind. you broke your val. why did you break your vowels? >> i started not by covering everyone -- break your bow? >> i started by covering everyone who lost. hillary clinton, when she was supposed to be president. this was after i was the conventional wisdom was that hillary was supposed to be president. i said, i cannot deal with it. i quit my job at newsweek and went to afghanistan. >> you would take afghanistan over mccain? wow.
i do not know what that says. >> it does not say anything positive to either of us. now then i wrote a piece complaining about this great journalism job i have, but in 2012 i realized i met the editor. he said he was looking for somebody to cover obama. he said, i am not offering you a job. i said, i do not want your job. we went back and forth, and to have six months or nine months covering somebody who is a historical figure would be a great opportunity as a journalist. >> covering obama this last time. as that made you return to your vow to never do it again kamakura or is it making you want to go out and do it again,
especially if hillary clinton is on the campaign trail? >> i think my days of following the press train are over. i was hoping for a general petraeus and hillary clinton match up, which would have been catnip for me. i think if hillary clinton is involved that is going to be the best thing. how do you cover it in an interesting way? tavis: there's a lot of news i want to get to given your expertise. let me stay with "panic 2012" for one more question. you admitted in other died whenons you hadn' you had the opportunity to ask the president some hard questions you did not. tell me what you said. tell me what you said and what you meant by it. >> the first time was 2006 in
baghdad. he was the senator from illinois. he had to check that box, and i was a correspondent for newsweek at the time. i will be totally honest, and this is going to get me hate mail. i have never opposed for a picture with any other politician or celebrity i have interviewed, but senator obama was there, and i thought, i will take a picture with this guy, and we have a conversation about iraq. i never thought i would get a chance to ask him a question again, especially after he became president. this year there was an off the record straight session for the senior advisers at this bar in orlando. president obama shows up unannounced, and i have a chance to ask one question off the
record. the question i wanted to ask, i did ask a question, but i did not ask about drones or civil liberties. it was also an example to me when i am trying to be hard, as critical as possible to do my job even in the moment you are meeting the president. it is not an easy thing to do. a lot of the journalists i was with swooned. i think that is correct. tavis: that is the right word. i am glad you were on as to go on the record and then and tonight. i raise that not to demonize you but to get your take on the media's complicity on not putting the tough questions for work. i ask that in the backdrop of 60 minutes. they punted the conversation.
60 minutes on rolled by the white house on sunday night. print that. you have got the president and the secretary of state. i like him. i like hillary clinton. i have interviewed mr. obama six or seven or eight times. we we turned those interviews as part of our celebrations. we polled the best of those conversations. it aired a week or so ago. you can see the interviews we had when people did not know who he was when he was just a state senator. hillary clinton i have interviewed more times over my 20-year career. what troubles me is the extent to which the media is the implicit in not asking the right questions.
now the white house gives a gift, and there is nothing of consequence that is asked. we are not in a real conversation about drones, about escalating militarism. it is about friendship and how they get along and what people thought was going to happen. let's talk about the real issues that matter, particularly when women are going into combat. we have a new secretary of state. we have a new defense secretary. i am bothered by the fact that the media continues to get in not asking who are leaders the tough questions. nothing about guantanamo, nothing about these drones company sos -- these drones, so 60 minutes as a softball conversation, but the media plays these clips over and over again, and it is basically a love says. it is a great sendoff for
hillary clinton. if i am sitting with them today, there are some questions that need to be asked that the media does not ask. that is a long way to get your point of why the media, why we will not ask the tough questions when we get the opportunity. >> if the white house ever granted me an interview with president obama, and it would be an interesting interview. i would ask all the questions i would love to ask, which i will not get. tavis: you or i for that matter. >> this is an intentional white house strategy. eight is throughout the campaign. how many interviews did cnn get with president obama? zero. how many did the people who really know him again? how many interviews did drive time radio get?
tavis: he has been on 60 minutes a dozen times. that is his favorite outlets. that is their track record, asking the tough questions. >> in the beginning of the second term, nobody wants to upset the relationship with the white house. i had conversations with journalists who told me there is so much they cannot write or say because they will lose access, and that is always the case. there is always something you cannot say or write. you always want to get as close to that line as possible. you want to oust the tough questions. you cannot orient about access. -- you cannot worry about access. tavis: how is our democracy and who served by journalists afraid to ask the right questions because they do not want to lose
access. >> i do not think it is served at all. it is these celebrities station of politics. -- celebritization of politics. it is easier to go along with that. it is easy to ask about the gossip inside the white house. i like that, but it cannot just be about -- the first term is not just about what great friends or not friends hillary or barack are. that is crazy. there is civil liberties. there is across the board who -- the one time the president did get grilled was on the spanish- language network, and he was shown to not be ready. >> he was not going back.
>> it was incredible, but he was totally flatfooted because somebody was asking real questions. >> it is fascinating you said that because the issues he got grilled about was immigration. people said, you promise. a promise is a promise. it is a fascinating thing. i love 60 minutes. now i watch it every sunday. i will continue, but this was a wet kiss to the white house. the american people were not served well by this conversation, and if i am in the media i am not suggesting every question you have to be real -- grilled. 60 minutes at a critical moment in the nation's history, you cannot go easy. good >> i will not mention the network or the reporter's name,
but after a high-profile guy did an interview with president obama, i was told by campaign officials the president said, i cannot believe he did not ask me a tough question. this is the top person in the industry. it was a telling moment. >> the question now is how many times will they've seen this conversation to the media. >> they missed the boat on this. if you look back to the first four years of the bush administration. it is the same dynamic. there was a lot of love for george bowers. things did not go south until katrina -- there was a lot of love for george w. bush. things did not go south until katrina. i think it is fair to say president obama has had an
easier go of it in the media. i think journalists feel more comfortable about being a pro- obama than they have any other president than i am aware. tavis: i am glad you said it. there is a bias toward power. obama has gotten away and was not asking the tough questions. i digress on the point. thank you for going on the record to acknowledge what you did acknowledge. thes move on to the news of day. >> it is a fun book to read. tavis: it is a great read. now to the stuff we talked about today.
it is a done deal. it is a region women in combat. t?at is your take on isn' >> i spend a lotf time with the memories. it's already blew my mind they were not in these roles. i think it is fine. my non-a violent, a pacifist streak says, do we need more people trying to kill people? at the same time i think this is a great step forward. all these concerns guys like bill kristol are talking about, what are they going to think when your son gets killed because a woman who cannot protect them are delusional. it is an insult. anyone who says that is an insult to the 60 plus people who have been killed in iraq. >> when and if we start to see women come home in body bags,
the obama administration and the bush and administration were wrong to not allow a single body to come in. hell, and we need to see the ugly. i do not like this idea of covering the evidence war gives us, but that is another issue. what do you think will happen when we start seeing women coming home in body bags at the same rate as men? >> i think people will be fine with it. if you have 30 women killed in a week or something like that, that is going to be a big story, and it is going to be tragic,
but i think people will accept it. i think it is a done deal. we are in the starship troopers era. >> john kerry state department? >> better there than the president. tavis: ouch. >> i interviewed senator kerrey in baghdad during one of the worst times in the war in iraq, and i ask, you know there has been more suicide bombings in the last three years in iraq and the past 20 or 30 years, and he said, i warned them not to go in iraq, and i said, that is not how i remember. this is a bit of my own diatribe, but i think senator clinton by their support and now of the iraq war, it feeds these ideas, and they have that moment
when they can stand up to this principle that is where that is coming from. all that being said, i think he will be fine. he is not going to rock the boat. he will fall out. tavis: that is another conversation. i interviewed him over the years, but will he get through and should he get through? >> i think he will get through. i think he should compare to other secretaries. i am sure he is as qualified as panetta or someone like gates. i did it will be interesting to see what happens. the pentagon is non favorable to of theck hehagels
world. the trick is how you manage the massive bureaucracy, and that will be the biggest challenge. i think it will be an experiment in management. tavis: let me go back to hillary clinton. if she is on the ballot and everyone thinks she will be, the conventional wisdom if she decides to run, the nomination is hers. you have heard that before. i digress on that point. where the affairs are concerned, what is your assessment of her readiness to be president? >> i think the readiness is a no-brainer. i think she is ready to be president. i would take issues with a lot of reform policies. i think it is hawkish and almost neo conservatives in a lot of ways.
if she is a woman and has to take those positions, i thing she believes that clip talking about the killing of gaddafi, we came and killed him. i thought, that is not the type of message i want my world leaders to be presented. all that being said, i think she is ready for the job. she is a beloved around the world as well. her popularity here, which is well-deserved, there is not a modern political figure who has had more invasive press coverage. i have come away very impressed with her as an individual. >> not the women cannot be hawkish. the iron lady comes to mind, but what do you make of the fact she has done a remarkable job of raising the issue of women and has made it clear the future of the world depends on the way we
treat women? she has raised the issue of women as high on the global agenda as anyone, yet she remains more hawkish than mr. obama. is that strange to you? >> she had to it shake off this baggage of the leftist hillary radical, and the easiest way to do this is to take the issues on foreign policy that most of the times the public does not care. i would love to see the speech where hillary clinton, a nobel prize speech where she does promote these values. war is not good for women. >> that is my point. it is such an oxymoron.
>> they are the biggest victims in these conflicts. it disturbs me when i hear these political leaders talking about the use of violence in such a casual way, which they all do, but in iraq and iran, we are going to obliterate them. who are we obliterate thing? when we think about war we often think about american soldiers being killed. they are, and that is horrible and tragic, but for most people the experience of war is to be huddled inside your home with the bombs dropped outside. it is your kids finding a dead body. most people who experience war experience is through the lens of a civilian. >> how is the guy who is so much less hawkish than the people he covers and the issues of the war he deals with, how you keep that imbalance? >> i had a number of drunken
conversations with most of the white house where i said, this is what i believe and trying to talk to them about what i come to a region where i come from. i also understand -- trying to talk to them about where i come from. a lot of people have views. they are in the system where they have to deal with tight constraints. you can be 15 degrees to the left or right. anything outside of that is not acceptable. it is tough. it is tough to talk to folks who view war as theoretical and have these issues when to me over the years they are very personal. it is your personal experience.
>> michael hastings is a great writer for rolling stone. his new book is "panic 2012 ." you want to get it and read it. his great work continues at rolling stone. good to have you. we look forward -- you are moving to l.a. maybe you can come see us. >> i would love to. tavis: that is our show. thank you for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation always the right time to do the
right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hungerwalmart committed $2 billion toas we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like thank you. pbs station from viewers like thank you.